Damaso Domingo Garcia Sanchez| 2B | 1980-1986
Notable Accomplishments: Silver Slugger: 1982, All-Star: 1984, 1985
Damaso Garcia was born February 7, 1955 in Moca, Dominica Republic. As a young man he was more into soccer than baseball, he was captain for the Dominican Republic's national soccer team at the Central American and Caribbean Games in 1974. He was signed by the Yankees as an amateur free agent in 1975 as players from the Dominica Republic weren't included in the amateur draft.
Damaso got up to the majors for a few games in 1978 and 1979, but the Yankees had Willie Randolph and Garcia wasn't going to move him off second base. The Yankees traded him, Chris Chambliss and Paul Mirabella to the Jays for Tom Underwood, Rick Cerone and Ted Wilborn, a trade that worked out pretty well for both teams. The Jays quickly moved Chambliss to the Atlanta Braves for Barry Bonnell, Joey McLaughlin and Pat Rockett.
The Jays had the unimpressive paring of future Boston Celtic star Danny Ainge and Canadian Dave McKay at second base so Garcia was a big upgrade at the position. Damaso had an ok rookie season with the Jays, hitting .278/.296/.381. Well, maybe a little less than ok when you add in that he was caught stealing 13 times in 26 tries and hit into 14 double plays. He did hit 30 doubles. And he finished 4th in the Rookie of the Year voting, getting 3 first place votes. It was a very thin rookie class that year, Joe Charboneau won the award that year, and he wasn't a great. But still, I can't imagine a player with Garcia's numbers getting votes today; we understand baseball stats much better now.
Garcia had even worse stats in the strike shortened 1981 season, hitting .252/.277/.304, but he did learn to steal better, being successful 13 of 16 attempts. 1982 was his first good season, the best of his career, he hit .310/.338/.399. He set career highs in runs (89), doubles (32) and stolen bases (54 second best in the AL). Fangraphs has 1982 as easily his best season, crediting him with a 4.4 WAR (his next best was 2.5 in 84). He became the first Jay to steal 50 bases. If he would have learned to take a few walks, he'd have been a heck of a player. But, as he said, "I don't like to walk and I don't like to bunt." Can you imagine a leadoff hitter saying that today? To be fair, at the time, most players from the Dominican didn't like to walk. The line was ‘you couldn't walk off the island'. Taking a base on ball was seen as less than masculine.
He was voted the Silver Slugger award as the best hitting AL second basemen and he received some MVP votes. The Jays had a number of good young players at that time, a many of the pieces that would get them into the playoffs. With Willie Upshaw, Alfredo Griffin, Lloyd Moesby, Jesse Barfield, George Bell, Jim Clancy and Dave Stieb they had some good players that would grow together to become a good team.
In 1983 had another pretty good year hitting .307/.336/.390. He stole a few less bases (31) but was proving himself to be a decent middle infielder, though maybe illustrating his biggest weakness, he drew his career high in walks that year, with a whopping 24, not exactly what you would like from a leadoff hitter.
1984 saw Damaso's number fall off some, he hit .284/.310/.374 with 46 steals. He had a huge left/right split hitting .354 against lefties but .255 against righties. He had the large split each season of his career. Damaso made the All-Star team. Can you imagine a leadoff hitter with a .310 on base percentage making the All-Star team today? We had three players on the All-Star team that year, Dave Stieb started the game for the AL and Alfredo Griffin made the team, mostly because he travelled to the game with Garcia and when Alan Trammell was injured, Griffin was there, so they put him on the roster.
In 1985, Garcia made the All-Star team again. I'm not really sure why. He hit a big .282/.302/.377 with 28 steals (but was caught 15 times so we'd have been better off if he didn't run), and scored 70 runs. He also received 2 MVP votes. The best news about 1985, for the Jays, was that we made the playoffs for the first time that season. Garcia leadoff in all 7 games of our series loss to the Royals, hitting .233/.303/.367 with 4 runs, 4 doubles and 3 walks.
1986 was his last year with the team, he really wore out his welcome. He hit much the same as always (.281/.306/.375) but his, often, rather surly personality hit a new high in temper tantrums when, upset at being removed from the leadoff spot, that his friend Alfredo Griffin was traded in the offseason and that he had a bad game, had a little bonfire with some bats and his uniform in the clubhouse.
After the season Garcia was traded to Atlanta with Luis Leal for Craig McMurtry. The trade didn't do anything for either team; Garcia was terrible in his few games with the Braves in 1988 after missing the whole 1987 season. Before the 1989 season the Expos signed him as a free agent.. After that season the Yankees signed him as a free agent but he didn't make the team and he retired after 11 seasons in the majors at 35.
Damaso had all the tools to be a really good player, he was good defensively but his refusal to take coaching or, you know, a walk, limited him. Bill James listed him as the 101st best second baseman in baseball history in his ‘New Historical Baseball Abstract', but I'd imagine a few have passed him by on the list by now. And Rob Neyer lists him as the second best 2B in Jay's history, but that was a few years ago now, as well.
Ernie Whitt's had a quote that summed him up "When he was healthy and wanted to play he was the best second baseman in the game. But there were days when (he) simply didn't want to play".
Garcia was an example of a type of player that you don't see in today's game. He had pretty good batting average, .288 as a Blue Jay, but didn't take enough walks have a decent on base average (.312 as a Jay) and didn't have any power (.377) and he stole bases at about a break even rate (69%). Nowadays, we know we want players that get on base, or slug or preferably both. There is no way you'd have a player like that leading off now. Back then, middle infielders of this type were common. That was baseball before Sabermetrics.
All that said, when he going good, he was an exciting player and was a favorite of mine. He was pretty good defensively and, compared to the second basemen we had had, up until then, he was pretty good.
A year after he retired he was found to have a malignant brain tumor. He had surgery to remove it and after chemo he was told he had 6 months to live, but he recovered with some minor troubles.. He has had a minor stroke in 2001. Last I heard he wasn't well, bedridden and unable to speak.
Damaso is married with 2 children one of which has hemophilia, which causes blood not to clot. Damaso did charity work to raise awareness and funding for the disease in the Dominican Republic.
Damaso Garcia's place among Jay batting leaders:
Batting Average (>1500 PA) 6th .288
On Base Average (>1500 PA) 36th .312
Slugging Average (>1500 PA) 39th .377
Games 16th 902
At Bats 9th 3572
Runs 11th 453
Hits 8th 1028
Doubles 14th 172
RBI 25th 296
Walks 45th 110
Stolen Bases 3rd 194
Runs Created 21st 407
Caught Stealing 1st 86